For Immediate Release
May 27, 2016
Contact: [email protected]
Minister Terzi attended as part of UANI’s international campaign to educate companies about the risks of doing business in Iran. UANI has identified a matrix of 10 key risk categories businesses and sovereign states face in any pursuit of deals with Iran.
Terzi wrote that the Forum had “a glaring lack of transparency and balance in the tenor and scheduling, in what is a subject of the utmost import to the global community. It is important that the corporate world realizes that contrary to popular perception, Iran is not open for business.”
Terzi noted, “Conference organizers have a responsibility to address these realities, in addition to leading frank discussions about the immediate, mid- and long-term business climates in Tehran. Events that obfuscate the truth, ignore legal obstacles and pay no mind to the timelines upon which many key transactions will hinge do a grave disservice to those in attendance.”
The full text of the op-ed follows:
May 23, 2016
There is no shortage of conferences being held around the world this year as the nuclear deal between Iran and the international community - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - goes into effect.
Without exception, these events paint a rosy picture where economic opportunities abound in Tehran for international investment. The theme of the recent 3rd annual Europe-Iran Forum in Zurich, for instance, was “Devise and implement your ideal Iran strategy”. The theme of the upcoming Euromoney Conference in London on May 19 is “Iran: Reconnecting with the International Financial Community”.
Though the location and the organizer may vary from week to week or month to month, all of these gatherings have one thing in common: a glaring lack of transparency and balance in the tenor and scheduling, in what is a subject of the utmost import to the global community.
It is important that the corporate world realizes that contrary to popular perception, Iran is not open for business. The creation of a narrow agreement between Iran and the United States controlling the nuclear program in Tehran has been confused for a 21st century gold rush into supposedly the last untapped market in the Middle East.
Businesses are being readily encouraged to pursue opportunities in Tehran in nearly every sector, with no acknowledgement of the huge risks deriving from sanctions and restrictions that are still very much in place.
I attended the Europe-Iran forum to pose important questions and drive an honest conversation in an otherwise slanted conference. What I found, surprisingly, was a number of speakers - from business, law firms, finance and think tanks - who, when asked in the question and answer sessions outlined serious problems for foreign companies attempting to enter the Iranian market.
Experts cited a lack of legal protection for foreign tenders (as Iran is not part of the World Trade Organization). They talked about the absence of protection for confidential information belonging to investors - as Iran has no trade secrecy laws and, they might have added, a major problem with cyber security. There were repeated warnings that the Iranian financial system was years away from functioning properly within the global economy. Or, as one market analyst bluntly told the audience: “Banking is a mess.”
How is it, though, that these issues are not front and center in any discussion of business investment in Iran?
Conference organizers have a responsibility to address these realities, in addition to leading frank discussions about the immediate, mid- and long-term business climates in Tehran. Events that obfuscate the truth, ignore legal obstacles and pay no mind to the timelines upon which many key transactions will hinge do a grave disservice to those in attendance. It is imperative that future conferences develop programming that takes these significant issues into account, and bring together a slate of speakers who can properly discuss all sides of the issue.
Iran’s ongoing belligerent actions must be a part of any conversation as well. Ballistic missile testing; state-sponsored terrorism of Hezbollah; Hamas and the Islamic Jihad; an infamous Holocaust cartoon contest scheduled to begin on May 14, fueling anti-Semitism; and horrific human rights violations of its own people-the Ayatollah has made clear that the Iranian agenda has not changed, and we must take these actions seriously.
Sanctions successfully stifling the Iranian economy brought President Rouhani to the negotiating table; in fruition the JCPOA has operated in name only. Nothing done by President Rouhani or the Ayatollah has signaled the slightest change in Iran’s behavior, or hegemonic goals.
Put in the simplest of business terms: the risks far outweigh the benefits of any investment in Iran today. While that may change in time, businesses and investors must heed caution and ask the difficult questions until those sponsoring events around the world honor their role and lead a fair and honest dialogue about the real business climate in Iran.
Giulio Terzi is an adviser to United Against Nuclear Iran. He previously served as Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations and Italian Ambassador to the United States.
UANI is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group founded in 2008 by Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, and Middle East Expert Ambassador Dennis Ross, that seeks to heighten awareness of the danger the Iranian regime poses to the world.